Want to Be a Better Beekeeper? Try your hand at queen production. You don’t need to master queen production or produce queens in commercial quantities. By learning how raise queens you will have a deeper understanding of the dynamics and social structure of a colony. You will also learn basic principles of population genetics and developmental honey bee biology.
When people hear this recommendation from us, we are often asked, “Why would you want to teach other people how to produce their own queens? Aren’t you cutting into your own sales and profits?” Well, maybe we are in the short term, but not in the long run. Better beekeepers will keep bees longer and help drive the demand for beekeeping products. In fact, it may also give you an appreciation for the product and services that queen producers provide. In other words, in addition to knowledge development and encouraging an improvement in beekeeping skills, exposure to the practice of queen rearing may give you a greater appreciation for the value of a queen or queen cells.
Sure, colonies are capable of replacing a queen when her reign nears its inevitable end, but bees don’t always make the decision to embark on supersedure until the colony’s productivity, brood rearing, and adult bee population are in serious decline. Even if you choose to limit your intervention to eliminating a poor queen or a queen that is heading a colony in decline, the experience you gain from learning queen production will assist you through the process. You will monitor the hive as it begins producing queen cells, see virgin queens emerge, know when young queens take a flight to mate, and then begin oviposition. The process is a fascinating opportunity to observe many aspects of bee biology as a colony struggles to ensure its survival and continued contribution to the species population.
Beyond merely witnessing what all honey bee colonies are equipped to do when provoked by swarming instincts and the decline or loss of a queen, learning how to encourage bees to produce queen cells, drones and ultimately mated queens, will require you to be more cognizant of colony conditions and learn techniques to foster conditions appropriate or necessary for the production of a healthy, fertile queen.
By exposing yourself to the basic principles and key techniques of queen rearing you will be a better beekeeper.